​Chronic Ankle
Instability

Common Foot Problems

Chronic Ankle Instability

Chronic ankle instability is the sudden collapse of the outer side of the ankle when standing, walking or playing sports. This instability usually develops after repeated ankle sprains. A number of athletes and other people suffer from chronic ankle instability.

Chronic ankle instability normally develops after an ankle sprain that did not heal completely or receive adequate rehabilitation. Connective tissues (ligaments) are stretched or torn during an ankle sprain, affecting the ability to balance. Physical therapy is needed to regain muscle strength around the ankle and retrain the tissues within the ankle that affect balance. Failure to properly rehabilitate an ankle sprain might lead to repeated injury.

Chronic ankle instability is often associated with:

  • Repeated outward turning of the ankle, most often on uneven surfaces or when playing sports.
  • Ongoing swelling and discomfort.
  • Pain or tenderness.
  • The ankle feeling floppy or unstable.

Repeated ankle sprains typically result in chronic ankle instability. Every additional ankle sprain results in further weakening of the ligaments, greater instability and complications of the ankle.

When evaluating and diagnosing ankle instability, Dr. Radovic will ask about a history of ankle injuries and instability. Dr. Radovic will then examine your ankle for tender areas, signs of swelling and instability. X-rays or other imaging modalities may supplement ankle evaluation.

Non-surgical treatment for chronic ankle instability is determined after considering the patient's activity level, examination results and test results. Initial treatments might consist of physical therapy, bracing and medications.

Physical therapy includes a combination of treatments and exercises to increase ankle strength, improve balance and range of motion, and retrain the muscles. Advancing through physical therapy sessions may eventually result in training specific to individual activities or sport.

Wearing an ankle brace provides support and immobilization. In addition, bracing helps prevent future ankle sprains.

Ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) might be prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation.

Dr. Radovic will recommend surgery after evaluating the degree of instability and unresponsiveness to initial non-surgical treatments. Surgery involves repair or reconstruction of the injured ligaments. Dr. Radovic will choose the most suitable surgical treatment according to activity level and the severity of ankle instability. Post operative length of recovery depends on the procedure or procedures performed.

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